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US Wants World Criminal Court Ban on Cases Against UN Peacekeepers - 2002-06-19

The Bush administration wants the United Nations to guarantee that all peacekeeping operations approved by the world organization are exempt from scrutiny or prosecution by the new International Criminal Court that goes into effect July 1.

The United States has proposed that the Security Council adopt a resolution guaranteeing peacekeepers immunity from prosecution by the new global court. Council diplomats consider this the latest move by the Bush administration to undermine the court, which it opposes and says it will not support.

The White House, and many members of Congress, have objected to the criminal court, arguing that U.S. officials and soldiers abroad could be subjected to political prosecutions. European Union members have already ratified the treaty establishing the court. They say such fears are unfounded.

But Richard Williamson, a U.S. representative at the United Nations, says Washington intends to pursue its objections, despite the unpopularity of its views, saying "We are stating that the United States, just like every other country, has an obligation to pursue its national interests. We have made our views very well known on the ICC (International Criminal Court), and we have now made our views very well known about our concerns about the ICC reach potentially to American men and women servicing U.N. peacekeeping operations."

Diplomats say the criminal court normally would not seek prosecution of U.N. peacekeepers for an alleged crime. The treaty was crafted in a way that the court would only step in if the responsible country did not.

A U.S. draft resolution surfaced just before the mandate for peacekeepers in Bosnia is due for renewal later this week. Diplomats do not expect the United States to try to delay a vote on Bosnia, which is a U.N.-approved NATO operation.

But several Council members believe the United States is trying to put the international community on notice that Congress might not be willing to pay for U.N. peacekeeping missions without the immunity guarantees.